By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Migraine headaches can be debilitating for the millions of people who suffer from them, estimated to be about 12% of U.S. adults.

They can be caused by a variety of things, including your weight, according to the new study in Neurology.

Weighing too much, or not enough, increases the risk of developing migraines according to new research that evaluated 12 studies covering nearly 300,000 people.

“It turns out that if you are obese, which means your BMI is greater than 30, you have a 27% higher risk of having a migraine than someone who doesn’t,” explained Dr. Jennifer Kriegler of the Cleveland Clinic.

A BMI of 30 corresponds roughly to someone who is 5’4” and weighs 175 pounds.

The research also shows people who were underweight had a 13% greater risk of having migraines.

The exact link isn’t clear, but researchers say fat tissue releases hormones and inflammatory substances which can augment someone’s response to pain and impact headaches.

Certain migraine risk factors, like family history and gender, can’t be modified. But other things can.

“If you can control a risk factor, and obesity and weight is a modifiable risk factor, you should do that, because that will also improve your ability to handle your headache if you start getting them,” said Dr. Kriegler.

The link between obesity and migraines was greater for women, and for those under the age of 55.

Doctors say many of the most common migraine medications can cause weight gain — and that’s why most migraine patients stop the meds, even when they’re effective. A complicated predicament.

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